Closer to the goal of Airport2Park!

sm-logoOn Tuesday Night (August 24, 2016) The Santa Monica City Council passed a unanimous resolution “To close Santa Monica Airport as soon as legally possible and begin planing for a park.” This is a historic announcement that sets Santa Monica on a clear path that will eventually remove the barbed wire fences and depave the airport tarmac and which will open up the 180 acres (now used exclusively by jets and planes) to walkers, joggers and bicyclists who will will be able to enjoy a park that will be open to serve everyone.

Also significant in this City Council resolution is direction to the City Manager to immediately minimize the current harmful impacts of aviation use by having the city take over the “Fixed Base Services” and evict private Fixed Base Operator jet companies; remove the “Western Parcel” to shorten the runway to remove larger jets and to end the sale of toxic lead fuel. Council member Gleam Davis also gave direction to staff to start the EIR and NEPA planning ASAP so when the airport is finally closed, the project to create a new park would be “shovel ready.”

Given all of this great news, the process to close the airport and build a park will not happen overnight. There are two important court cases that must be heard in Federal Court which will clarify our rights of the city regarding this land, but we now have a clear roadmap of civic steps that will eventually lead to a more sustainable future.

For official Santa Monica City statement: http://newsroom.smgov.net/2016/08/24/santa-monica-city-council-votes-to-close-airport

August 6th: Airport2Park: Santa Monica Airport Walk

Guest post: Airport2Park

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Have you ever walked all around the perimeter of Santa Monica Airport?  Have you ever even visited Santa Monica Airport?  In both cases the answer is probably no. If you have visited there, it was probably not to use the aviation facilities and it was probably not for the pedestrian enhancements of which, there are presently very few.

Nevertheless, last week Santa Monica Spoke joined Airport2Park.org and LosAngelesWalks.org  to examine the environmental impacts of the airport, look at pedestrian infrastructure and to explore the movement to replace the airport with a grand park accessible to everyone.

We met on a beautiful overcast morning in the southwest corner of Clover Park where a chain link fence with a “No Trespassing” sign separates the airport runway and the park. After a few introductory words we were off, stopping just a few yards later at our first stop was near one of two children’s playgrounds that backs up to the Airport. It is a pretty surprising location for a playground and a preschool given that the private planes at Santa Monica Airport still use toxic lead aviation fuel which is fueled less than 25 feet away. Less than 50 yards away is an active jet runway and a IFR hold area for Runway 3 where jet aircraft idle and spew jet fumes and ultrafine particulate matter that people in the park and families in nearby homes breathe.

We continued east between the business park (which is the site of the original historic Clover Field) and the present airport, walking in the road as their were no sidewalks. We pass the new property that SnapChat has just leased and passed Atlantic Aviation which supplies services to visiting jet users, while we admired an abundance of Teslas, a rare 959 Porsche, and other exotic cars that graced their security parking lot.

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Continuing east we tried to hug the airport as close as possible. We noted that there was a gated access road called Donald Douglas Loop that is only accessible to aviation users with a pass card. It provides access around the airport but not for pedestrians.

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Considering that there are only two ways to traverse the south side of the airport for pedestrians (both of which are on busy streets), our group was very supportive of opening up that road to pedestrians which could be done by simply moving the AirportToPark_photo_by_Michael_Brodsky 2fence to the south side of the road, opening up access to those who might want a safe route to the park on the other side of the airport. We had our choice of walking through the parking lot in the business park or squeeze through a small drainage area which popped out near more hangers and the airport flight tower.
The group opted for the later. Here is where we found the infamous sign that shows NO bicycles, NO pedestrians but airplanes are OK.

At this stop is at the Pre-School located right next to the airport fence and just 50 yards from the another IFR hold area for jets waiting for Runway 21 where we could hear one already idling.

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At the eastern end of the business park is where Centinela abruptly ends at the airport fence (It was truncated when the current runway was extended toward the end of WWII). We were now in Los Angeles and immediately could see the poor state of sidewalks compared to Santa Monica. We walked down to Ocean Park Blvd. and then south along Bundy Ave. where you can see the houses dangerously located just across the street from the end of the runway.

At the top of the hill, we turned onto Airport Ave and walked down through the Santa Monica Airport Park Dog Park full of dogs and owners and along the site of the new Airport Park Expansion. Airport2Park.org has been active in getting the city to remove 12 acres of airplane parking and convert the land into a new park that is currently being designed by Mark Rios who designed Grand Park in downtown LA.

We walked up to the Santa Monica Airport Administration Building observation deck which offered spectacular views of the Hollywood sign to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west.
IMG_6294This is a view that few people get to enjoy. We discussed the momentum of the movement to close the airport and transform it into a grand park, that when completed, would be a third of the size of New York Central Park. From our vantage point, we could visualize the 160 acres ofconcrete – that is currently surrounded by barbed wired fence –  being returned to nature with miles of walking paths opened to everyone regardless of age, income or ability.

Excited about the possibility for the future, we continued back toward Clover Park, enjoying the conversation only to be interrupted by a jet blast off. It was the same one that we had observed perviously that sat idling noisily for 28 minutes. Next time, maybe we will just hear the birds…

The momentum to turn Santa Monica Airport into a park is propelled by the need to address important “quality of life” and “public access issues.” The community has an immediate need reduce the harmful health impacts of noise, ultrafine particulate pollution and the toxic lead caused by hosting a jetport right in the middle the neighborhoods of Sunset Park, Venice, Mar Vista and Westdale.

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We also have the need to increase the public access to parks and open space that Santa Monican’s so desperately need. The city currently has only 1.39 acres of parkland per 1000 residents. This is just half the average of L.A. County and a quarter of that of the City of Los Angeles. It is the absolute lowest per comparable cities in California. Considering that only about 350 people per day actually fly out of the airport, it pales in comparison to the more than 2,000 daily users of just the adjacent Clover Park alone.

2014 Exercise Reimagining Santa Monica Airport, Part 1: Student Park Design Concepts

Here are the designs of USC graduate landscape architect students, Christopher Sison, Chen Liu, Zeek Magallanes and Yongdan Chunyu under the direction of internationally renowned landscape architect Aroussiak Gabrielian (FORGROUND Design) after taking a practical approach in choosing bicycles for the their site visit to Santa Monica Airport  after which they worked on a three month project to design a park to replace the Santa Monica Airport.

By walking around Santa Monica Airport it is not surprising to see that local community members are in sync with those who are now working together to make streets more walkable and livable. We are repurposing transportation infrastructure that no longer serves the community placemaking needs and aspirations. From San Francico to Madrid we have seen freeways removed to make plazas and from Chicago to Berlin, we are now seeing airports being replaced with parks.

For more information please visit:  airport2park.org

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